Council Supports Plan to Transform Crumbling Downtown Parking Structure into Mixed-Use Housing Project

A far-reaching redevelopment plan to replace the California Street parking structure with a four-story, mixed-use housing project received the unanimous support of the Redding City Council on Tuesday.

John Truitt, executive director of Viva Downtown, praised the project, telling the council “this is the best, the boldest plan for downtown Redding.”

The unwieldy-titled Net Zero Affordable Housing Project would consist of 79 residential units (20 at market rates and 59 affordable housing units), 8,200 square feet of commercial and retail space and a cycle track to help downtown pedestrians and cyclists to connect to public transit and Redding’s trail system.

Architectural rendering of the Net Zero Affordable Housing Project at California and Tehama streets. Photos by Jon Lewis.

The housing project would replace the northern end of the parking structure between Tehama and Butte streets. The project also includes widening the alley between California Street and the Market Street Promenade to allow for some retail and outdoor dining uses.

The project is a cooperative venture between the city, the McConnell Foundation and K2 Land and Development (the same developer already working on replacing the shuttered Dicker’s department store with a four-story mixed-use building).

The council’s 3-0 vote, with Councilman Brent Weaver (a downtown property owner) recused and Councilwoman Francie Sullivan absent, authorizes City Manager Barry Tippin to apply for $20 million in state Affordable Housing Sustainable Communities grant funds. Awards from that program will be announced in June 2018.

By the same vote, the council also agreed to seek $4.4 million Infill Infrastructure Grant from the state to help fund construction of a 220-space multi-level, mixed-use private and public parking garage between Butte and Yuba streets.

Anne Thomas, executive director of the 250-member Shasta Living Streets, said her organization is “super excited to support this project.” The project’s greenhouse gas-reducing emphasis on improved walkways, bike trails and access to public transit all lead to a healthier community, Thomas said.

Kevin O’Rourke, student services officer at Shasta College, said the college “is fully supportive of revitalization efforts in downtown Redding.” As a project neighbor in the college’s Health Sciences Center, O’Rourke said he welcomed the prospect of nearby affordable housing for nursing and dental hygiene students.

“I’m just honored to be on the council at this time to be able to support this project,” Councilwoman Julie Winter said before making a motion to authorize the grant application. “This is really an amazing time,” agreed Councilman Adam McElvain. “This really could be a game changer.”

Steve Bade, Redding’s community development manager, said downtown Redding currently has 1,558 parking spaces. If both grants are awarded and the projects are approved by the council, there will be a net loss of 55 parking spaces. If the infill grant for the transitional parking structure falls through, the net loss of parking spaces grows to 175.

Steve Bade discusses downtown development plans.

Joe Chimenti, head of the Shasta Builders Exchange, also offered his enthusiastic support for the project and said it reflects the community’s desire to “move to where we want to be.” The pain of losing a few parking spaces will be more than made up for by a thriving downtown and well-paying construction jobs.

“Walking is good. Any downtown you go to, from Sacramento to Boston, you park your car and walk. This is our time and our opportunity,” Chimenti said.

“I feel like I’m endorsing puppies and fresh air. This is a no-brainer,” added Ken Miller, a commercial real estate agent.

In other action during a busy, 4-hour meeting, the council:

Redding’s new flag

–Voted 4-0 to approve a new design for the official Redding flag and accept the donation of a dozen 5×8-foot flags from Redding Catalyst Young Professionals, the group that organized and funded a countywide design contest.

Redding Catalyst’s Brandi Greene shows off the new flag.

Brandi Greene, one of the facilitators with Catalyst, presented the winning design submitted by Redding artist Ashley Boban. In a video message recorded in Pennsylvania where she’s studying art, Bob said her striking but simple design references Redding’s iconic Sundial Bridge and the near-constant sun against a backdrop of blue that symbolizes both clear skies and the clean waters of the Sacramento River and nearby lakes.

Redding flag design artist Ashley Boban on video.

The collegial atmosphere on Tuesday was in marked contrast to the council meeting in January when Councilwoman Sullivan suggested redesigning the city flag—a staid banner depicting Shasta Dam and Mt. Shasta that few knew existed—at a modest cost of $2,500. A new look would be a simple way to boost civic pride, she reasoned.

Her proposal unleashed an outcry as critics blasted the council for failing to hire enough police officers, ignoring the city’s unfunded pension liabilities, granting too many raises and not making any progress in regards to the homeless population and property crimes.

Fortunately, Greene said, Catalyst has several “flag geeks” within its ranks and those vexillologists were happy to step in. The new flags are in production now, Greene said. Flags, stickers and other merchandise also will soon be available by visiting www.reddingcityflag.com.

Shasta Wolves honored

–Recognized the 2017 Shasta High School varsity football team for its triumphant run through the CIF Division 3-AA postseason that ended at the state championship game with a loss to Bishop Garcia Diego High School of Santa Barbara. It was Shasta’s first attempt at a state football championship. A week earlier, the Wolves became the first NorCal team to host a regional football playoff game.

Head Coach J.C. Hunsaker and Mayor Schreder with the Shasta High Wolves football team.

“They are a very special group of young men,” head coach J.C. Hunsaker said after accepting a plaque from Mayor Kristen Schreder.

Bethel pays for RPD drones

–Accepted $25,000 from Bethel Church for the purchase of drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles, to be used by Redding police officers. Police Chief Roger Moore said six officers, each certified by the FAA, will operate the drones.

Moore said the devices will assist in missing person and narcotics investigations, managing disasters and crime scenes, crowd control at large civic events, SWAT operations, explosive ordnance details and for training exercises. “These are designed to save lives and protect property,” Moore said.

Bethel Church’s Kris Vallotton.

Kris Vallotton, a senior associate at Bethel, said the donation is an effort by the church to assist an understaffed department better protect the community. Earlier, Bethel contributed $500,000 to the city to preserve the popular Neighborhood Police Unit and has pledged to raise an additional $724,000 to fund the NPU for a two-year period.

Nikolas Gilliam.

Nikolas Gilliam told the council he was concerned the drones would be used to target the homeless and other vulnerable members of the community. He also said the donation blurs the separation between church and state and that the true purpose of the drones is for “sweeping undesirables under the rug so they won’t bother out-of-town worshipers.”

High-speed Internet

–Voted 3-0, with Weaver again recusing himself, to accept a report from Councilman McElvain on his proposal to bring high-speed fiber-optic Internet access to the downtown area. McElvain said interest in municipal broadband has increased in light of the FCC’s controversial “net neutrality” decision.

McElvain said the Chico-based Northeastern California Connect Consortium and Broadband USA, a division of the federal Department of Commerce, have both agreed to assist the city in developing plans and analyzing strategies for creating an Internet utility capable of spurring economic development in the downtown area.

Jon Lewis
Jon Lewis is a freelance writer living in Redding. He has more than 30 years experience writing for newspapers and magazines. Contact him at jonpaullewis@gmail.com.
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